Q.Should I keep my KiwiSaver payments going during lockdown? Both my partner and I are working from home at the moment but our work could be scaled down and then money will be very tight. We have $2000 in emergency savings but that probably isn't enough in the current situation and we have ongoing mortgage payments.
A.You need to weigh up your short term and long-term goals. Continuing with your KiwiSaver contributions will be good for your balance down the track, as unit prices are lower now so your money will buy more units. Eventually as markets recover, you will reap the benefits. However, you will have to weigh this up against your short-term needs.
Building up your emergency savings should really be your priority right now. Currently we are in lockdown for 4 weeks, but if Covid-19 is not under control by the end of this period it could be extended.
This is a good time to review your budget and cut back on all unnecessary spending. Because most of us are confined to our homes, we will be spending less.
Compare your spending now to the same time a year ago, by going through your bank and credit card statements. Put together a realistic budget and learn to make do with less.
Stopping your KiwiSaver contributions is called a 'savings suspension'.
It is straightforward for anyone who has been a member for one year or more. It can be done online through the IRD website, and you can select any period from 3 months to 1 year.
Your employer contributions will also stop. If you want to resume contributions early, simply let your employer know. You can also make contributions yourself by internet banking if you choose to during this time.
There may be other options for you if money does get tight down the track. You may be able to apply to your bank for a mortgage holiday. A note of warning that if you do this your mortgage balance will grow, as you won't be paying interest or principal. For some people though, it could be a godsend.
KiwiSaver members can also consider a Significant Financial Hardship application to help make ends meet. Many households will be experiencing financial stress and uncertainty right now, and some will face a significant drop in income. Members can only access their own and their employer contributions, not any government contributions. Applications should be made through their provider and are subject to approval by the trustees of the Scheme.
Right now completing a Significant Financial Hardship application will be difficult, as it must be signed as a statutory declaration before a JP or similar. The government may need to make the process easier while we are in a State of National Emergency.
Shelley Hanna is an Authorised Financial Adviser FSP12241. Her disclosure statement is available on request and free of charge by calling 06-8703838. The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not personalised. Send your KiwiSaver questions to email@example.com.